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Terence Winch
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photo by Peter Berger Leaving the Tavern How long should my morning be? They've never known who I am but I don't feel time's gone too fast slow enough to fit the spirit in. Sun brings gold to the right side of all the people's faces, half of the muscles used to smile. Travelled through, based on a true story, cliff surface or the cave wall, how quickly does bamboo grow? Two inches per hour. Then after sixty days never grows in height or diameter again. A truckload of walnuts tells the tale of flirtations, immune from the hazard of rebirth. Heaven told me/us, the sky told me the arch is the dragon's mouth, Thursday is orange, Friday is blue, brick tea, silver and silk. The heart doesn't have to fight gravity to get blood back. Take height under the floating hip. Mind your head. The deer is loose. Veal ribs in Coca Cola. Deep-fried tench. We have these ingredients. The head cleared, and then all of a sudden, the king was an infant, the peace feelers that were already being extended, strong enough to blow the tiles off the roof of the church. _________________________________________________ Donald Berger is the author of The Long Time, a bilingual edition in English and German (Wallstein Publishers); Quality Hill (Lost Roads Publishers), and The Cream-Filled Muse (Fledermaus Press). His work has appeared in The New Republic, Slate, Conjunctions, Colorado Review, Fence, TriQuarterly, The Iowa Review and other magazines including some from Berlin, Leipzig, Budapest, Hong Kong, and mainland China. He teaches at Johns Hopkins University. "Leaving the Tavern" includes the word "floating," which is the very word I would use to describe many of Berger's poems. His poems glide over wondrous landscapes of language and place, offering mysterious information at every turn. To hear him read several other poems, check out these videos: Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
That's a mysterious little gem.
C'est un excellent poème.
Earle---I think you just wrote "Microelectronic Sonnet 2"
There's nothing better than a good onic.
Well, I'm sure if you asked him nicely he would have given up all his bad habits. Thanks for checking in, my friend. (But who is this "Terrence"?)
Thank you, comrade, for turning me on to his work.
Thank you, Dan. You would like Prigov's work. It's sufficiently ridiculous.
Dmitri Alexandrovich Prigov (1940–2007) died of a heart attack on the Moscow metro at age 66. An artist of incisive comic genius with a taste for the bizarre, he would no doubt have found the circumstances of his death somewhat amusing. As Soviet Texts, an excellent new collection of his work translated and edited by poet Simon Schuchat (with Ainsley Morse) and published by Ugly Duckling Presse, makes clear, Prigov’s central literary mission was the dismantling of the language of officialdom. He is a satirist, a parodist, whose writing is a mocking commentary on the political misuses and other abuses of language. [photo left: D.A. Prigov] The lead-off piece in Soviet Texts is entitled “Under Me,” and it sets the tone for the entire collection. A long list-poem offering “a procession of details, elements, events, which took place ‘under me,’” it showcases Prigov’s absurd, expansive, comprehensive knowledge of history, art, and culture (not to mention sports and porn): And Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Kim Basinger, Michael Jackson appeared under me Tarantino, Platini, van Basten, Wim Wenders also appeared under me. Jeff Koons appeared under me, too And Ciccolina appeared under me And Ravi Shankar appeared under me Mike Tyson, Schumacher, Agassi, Magic Johnson appeared under me, too In “Description of Objects,” Prigov takes aim at the deadly form and diction of Soviet propaganda in a series of pieces each beginning with “Comrades!” and proceeding to offer ridiculous definitions of everything from eggs to apes. Authoritative nonsense and faux logic lead to the final conclusion of every description: “For the reasons indicated above, its actual existence is considered unlikely.” In the brilliant mock-heroic “Moscow and the Muscovites,” one of my favorites, Prigov takes on inflated, nationalistic jargon, exposing its ludicrousness along the way: “Moscow is everywhere—its peoples are all over/ And where Moscow’s not—there’s only emptiness.” “Twenty Stories about Stalin” are scripture-like parables about Uncle Joe that are ultimately anti-hagiographic. Also a prolific visual artist, Prigov clearly deserves the wider appreciation that this book will certainly bring him. As Simon Schuchat [photo right] notes in the frontmatter: “While Prigov’s writing is very definitely of the Soviet and post-Soviet world, it is also fully equal to, and sometimes consonant with, contemporaneous avant-garde writing elsewhere in the world.” Soviet Texts thrums with Prigov’s subversive sense of humor, almost making one hungry for something irony-free. Though I don’t think you find that in his writing, I thought these lines from “Terrorism with a Human Face” came closest, and could even serve as his epitaph: When the years have passed and the currently wild People have forgotten many things Fear of me will tear through all of Great Russia For what I wrote! But it was the truth, after all! Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
We're on the same wavelength---I just located my ancient copy of this today. I happened to open it to a phrase I had marked off when I first read this book in the '60s: "...the frantic desire for life that thrives in the heart of every great calamity."
She sounds wonderful & your love for her is beautifully apparent. I'm sorry for your loss.
Beautiful post---both the prose and poetry halves. I'm sorry you're losing your loaner dog. A New Yorker piece a few years ago claimed that dogs prefer the company of humans over that of other dogs.
Thanks, Catherine, for your own keen insight.
Beautiful little poem. Paul was a special kind of person and poet.
Thanks, Earle. I only write these pieces to elicit your always excellent responses.
Thank you, Jennifer. That's a lovely compliment.
Thank you, Mr. Gutstein.
We first met in 2013, when he was briefly posted in DC. Bob Hershon of Hanging Loose Press, which has published books by both of us, suggested to Indran that he look me up. Or maybe I met him on one of my jaunts to India.
You are most welcome, mon ami.
Indran Amirthanayagam is one of the most remarkable figures roaming the contemporary poetic landscape. Like some of the poets he most admires—Cavafy, Neruda, Hikmet (all mentioned in the poem below)—he is a citizen of the world. Born into the Catholic Tamil community (a minority within a minority) of Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1960, he left with his family for England when he was eight, seeking refuge from his native land’s ongoing strife as well as care for an autistic brother. He lived in the U.K. for six years, attending grammar and primary school there. When he was fourteen, the family moved again, this time to Honolulu, where his father, also a poet, had been offered a job. In Hawaii, Indran was one year ahead of Barry Obama, whom he knew slightly, at Punahou School. In 1978, he left Hawaii for Haverford College in Pennsylvania. After getting his B.A. there, he moved to New York to become, like Lorca, “a poet in New York.” He picked up a master's at the Columbia School of Journalism and remained in New York until 1993, when he got a job with the U.S. Foreign Service, having become a U.S. citizen in the late ‘80s. Indran reading “Fire Department” His Foreign Service positions have included stints in Argentina, Belgium, the Ivory Coast, Mexico, India, Canada, Peru, and Haiti. This is a man who gets around. He writes and publishes in English, French, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Portuguese (but sadly and ironically, he has forgotten Tamil, his first language). In the DC area, where he has many friends, he runs a reading series at a Haitian restaurant called Port au Prince and has just become editor of the Beltway Poetry Quarterly, an online journal. He is indefatigable; he works full time; he writes a poem a day, at a minimum; he travels constantly. In the first half of this year alone, he felt he simply had to go to San Francisco to help celebrate Ferlinghetti’s hundredth birthday; he caught a train from DC to New Orleans to take part in a literary festival; he brought his 83-year-old mother back to Sri Lanka for the first time in 30 years; he’s made several trips to New York. He may be the most ubiquitous poet on the planet. He always wears a hat. His poems (the ones in English, anyway) have a directness, almost a plainness, about them. His work is deeply literary, full of reverence for his fellow poets, but devoid of stylistic pretensions. The poems are like enhanced emails, addressed to his friends and readers, but made resonant and luminous through the work of the imagination. Gift at the End I woke up the other day and thought about the best gift I could offer friends turning a year older on the various continents—I know people everywhere like you, thanks to powerful social media—a poem, certainly, electronic card, phone call, even a visit? Can you imagine boarding a steel and aluminum plane—wood used only for... Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
Thanks, Earle, and thanks for tipping me off to this recording---James Earl Jones certainly knew how to get a poem across brilliantly.
Thank you, my friend. Is there any chance of your becoming the New Yorker's next poetry editor?
Thank you, Michael. You have always reminded me of him. And he would have totally loved you (and not just because you're such a great musician).